Before we arrived home from our eighteen months spent traveling, volunteering and just generally having a whale of a time overseas, I was super enthused about turning our backyard into a mammoth vegie garden upon our return. This was because I had spent most of my time gardening in the tropics, where if you want things to grow, you just have to show them some dirt and overnight they will have sprouted to knee-height.
Then we got home and I saw the empty, dry dirt and I felt overwhelmed despair overtaking my previous enthusiasm. I didn't know what I was doing!! How do I know when to plant things? What do I do if they don't grow? When do you plant/cut back/prune/prepare?? So many questions I had. I felt like it was an impossible task and I all but gave up. But I didn't and we planted some things. Then when they didn't take off and become humongous immediately I all but gave up again. Now I have calmed down a little; relaxed my gardening style a bit. Now I know if something doesn't work it's just because it wasn't planted at the right time, in the right place, in the right way... There are a lot of variables, but we are slowly building up the gardening knowledge database in our brains. And finding the funny side to our tiny thimble sized onions, our pathetic summer's harvest of three strawberries.
So to make things a little easier for other people who want a killer garden but have never owned gardening gloves before, here is a list of things you should definitely grow... They will stave off despair when other less hardy and obliging plants don't cooperate.
Zucchini! The king of the garden/burden of summer's end, depending on who you talk to. Zucchini will grow, and it will grow well. By the end of the zucchini plant's time you will never want to see another one ever in your life. At least until next season, when you get excited all over again about how prolific your zucchini plants are and how awesome you are as a gardener, and in general as a human. So buy a few seedlings and wait to have your fridge taken over by a mountain of dark green curves. (plant toward the end of spring, beginning of summer)
Bok choi, pak choi... Anything choi. This is a winner of a plant species. It's uber-delicious, makes stir fries better than whatever you imagined they were before, and grows like mad. It's one of those plants that looks like it grows inches overnight- I'm convinced, in fact, that it does grow inches overnight. I am going to have a everlasting stock of 'choi' seeds in my seed tin from now on. Woo, stir fries! (plant anytime that is not cold cold winter)
Mint/dill/parsley. These herbs grow, without you really having to do anything at all. Just plant them, keep them alive long enough for them to spread, let them go to seed eventually and BAM! Herbs for life. (plant pretty much anytime)
Beans. Oh beans, what fantastic garden-y friends. So hilarious with their little tendrils, always on the look-out for something to climb. Then so exciting to watch, the inches climbed overnight. Beans and peas actually, this family will never let you down. They want to grow so badly that all you have to do is buy pea straw, spread it around your other plants as mulch and watch as pea pods appear, as if from nowhere. I totes understand why Jack swapped that cow. (plant at the end of summer, beginning of autumn)
Okay. There you go. These are the plants that will keep you going when your capsicum refuses to grow, when your seedlings get eaten by every single bug or don't even sprout in the first place, when things get frizzled by the sun before they have time to grow. These are the plants that will be there for you. So grab some seeds and gloves and compile a big old list of zucchini and bean recipes. You'll need it.